two songs in time and space
18 March, 2006
I thought my days of having music be the soundtrack to my life were a high school/college thing. The emotional intensity of the teenage years is so singular, I figured I’d never feel the same way about a song that I played to death when I was 28 as I do about one I played to death at 18. However. Like every other 18-35er in the country, I love the album Give Up by Postal Service. I can’t get enough of it, even now, years after its release, and I think it may be an exception, or perhaps even disprove the hypothesis altogether.
Today, DCist readers selected The District Sleeps Alone as their official anthem. (Which is what inspired this post, if you’re wondering.) Odd choice, but actually very interesting from my POV, because this song already reflected my relationship with this city. I first heard Postal Service in Chicago when DC was just another place I had no tie to. Then my boyfriend moved for a 2004 campaign, and I tried on the idea of moving to the District (whether they won or not), which in my mind’s eye was full of gaudy apartment complexes. (ew.) Then we broke up, and the song depressed me, cause we were both worth leaving, and my mind’s DC became full of lonely people at 3AM standing in parking lots with keys in hand. Now, I’m sleeping alone in the District and the ex visits on occasion for his business, and it should be just like in the song — but our badges are plastic, my apartment’s in a fabulous and non-gaudy building, and we’re both less alone than we were together.
Another song from that album has been through a lot with me, Such Great Heights. In Chicago once, in the depths of 2004 election and dissertation-writing hell, I heard it in a store; it cheered me up for DAYS. But, a little while ago, I played it to soundtrack a moment in an awesome relationship that later went completely FUBAR. Guess what song the iPod liked to “randomize” at me while I was reeling?
Here’s the thing I realized during one of those “random” moments: these sort of ambiguities and complexities are precisely what made one’s teenager songs transcendent. You like a song, and because you do it gets linked to people, events, things; the things change and you KNOW the song hasn’t, but it has, and you listen harder to figure it out (or to move on, or to wallow…). You’d think it’d collapse under this weight you’re piling on it, but what really happens is the song gets lighter and broader in your life. More a part of it, not less.